Atmospheric Remote Sensing

Head of the department: Prof. Dr. Markus Rapp (interim), Dr. Ralf Meerkötter

Remote sensing of clouds with MSG/SEVIRI (Meteosat Second Generation). Clockwise for each quarter of the disk and starting at the upper right the figure shows: Colour composite, optical thickness, reflected shortwave irradiance, effective droplet radius.

Climate and chemistry of the atmosphere are affected by a variety of parameters and it is well known that clouds and aerosols are playing an essential role in this context. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the feedback of clouds is, for example, one of the largest uncertainties in the prediction of future climate. A profound knowledge about clouds and aerosols and their interaction with solar and thermal radiation is therefore mandatory. Satellite and surface based observations by passive and active remote sensing instruments provide information about their spatial and temporal distribution and can help to improve our understanding of their life cycle processes and related properties relevant to weather and climate.

Our research topics are:

  • Life cycle processes of water and ice clouds, cloud-aerosol radiative interaction processes, and their corresponding effects on weather and climate
  • The impact of air-traffic on clouds and the quantification of condensation trails (contrails) and contrail-cirrus radiative forcing.
  • Detection, quantification, and prediction of regions loaded with volcanic ash by use of satellite observations as a contribution to an efficient air traffic management
  • The temporal and spatial variability of clouds with respect to an improved nowcasting of solar energy.
  • The dynamics and the formation of precipitation and lightning in convective clouds and thunderstorms

Our most important tools are:

  • Cloud classification schemes and remote sensing methods for the retrieval of macroscopic, microphysical, and optical properties of water and ice clouds (Meteosat/SEVIRI, CALIPSO/CALIOP, Aqua-, Terra/MODIS)
  • Nowcasting method for the prediction of the distribution of water and ice clouds (Meteosat/SEVIRI)
  • Method for the detection and the temporal tracking of line-shaped contrails and ice clouds (Meteosat/SEVIRI, MODIS)
  • Remote sensing method for the derivation of the radiation budget components at the top of the atmosphere (Meteosat/SEVIRI)
  • Remote sensing method for the detection of volcanic ash (Meteosat/SEVIRI)
  • One- and three dimensional radiative transfer models (libRadtran, MYSTIC, MOM)
  • The polarization Doppler radar POLDIRAD with a bistatic extension to measure three-dimensional wind flow structures

The methodical approaches for the development of the listed remote sensing methods are outlined on the page “Passive Remote Sensing”.

The department Atmospheric Remote Sensing closely cooperates with the Lehrstuhl für Experimentelle Meteorologie at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.


German Aerospace Center
Institute of Atmospheric Physics
82234 Weßling
Tel.: +49 8153 28-2521
Fax: +49 8153 28-1841
Dr.rer.nat. Ralf Meerkötter  
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Atmospheric Remote Sensing

Tel.: +49 8153 28-2535
Fax: +49 8153 28-1841


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Radiation in the atmosphere (
Global models (
UV-Radiation (